UMass falls short of A-10 tournament despite victory

By Steve Levine

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

There wasn’t much more the seniors could do on Senior Day.

The seniors carried the Massachusetts baseball team in defeating La Salle in its final game of the season, 15-8.

The victory was bittersweet for the Minutemen, however, who failed to reach the Atlantic 10 tournament despite winning the majority of their conference series.

“It was unfortunate for the seniors that we ended the season without getting into the tournament,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “We took six [conference] series, [just] beat La Salle and now they’re in. That part is disappointing.”

With the win, UMass improved to 19-27 overall with a 13-14 conference record. With the loss, La Salle fell to 21-30 overall with a 14-13 conference record.

“When you win six series out of nine, you figure you got a pretty good shot at getting [into the playoffs], but we came up a little bit short,” Stone said.

On the bright side, the Minutemen pushed across 15 runs and witnessed a solid start from senior Brian Leigh and three scoreless innings from junior Charlie Benson.

“It was a really good game for us with 15 runs,” Stone said. “Leigh did a good job and Benson did an extraordinary job coming on in relief and got us out of a jam. We came up with a lot of clutch hits and played a good ballgame.”

Among the top performers on Senior Day were seniors Mike Donato, who went 5-for-5 with four runs scored and a run batted in and Mike Gedman, who went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and five RBIs.

Starting pitcher Brian Leigh threw five innings, allowing three runs while striking out five.

The victory exemplified the Minutemen’s cohesive play seen throughout most of the second half of the season. UMass began its season 0-9 after facing tough, non-conference competition including Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and William & Mary. It didn’t get much better from there, as the Minutemen opened conference play with series losses against Saint Joseph’s and Charlotte, the top-seeded team in the playoffs. It wasn’t until a month into the season, when UMass’ record sat at 2-16, before the Minutemen turned it around.

“I thought we came a long way,” Stone said. “We started off against some very tough competition and struggled. But then we bounced back and ended up playing our best baseball at the end of the year. [The season] was very rewarding from that standpoint.”

Much like any other year, Stone will have to deal with departing seniors. This year, UMass will lose seven players to graduation, including starting pitcher Brian Leigh, starting outfielders Brian Baudinet and Mike Donato, as well as starting first baseman Mike Gedman. Other losses include pitcher Jared Freni, utility player Ben Glashoff, and catcher Ben Kessel.

“I really appreciate the contributions from our seniors,” Stone said. “They certainly did a good job for us this year and they will be missed.”

Stone is excited for next season, as well as UMass’ incoming crop of recruits.

“We need to rebuild,” Stone said. “We have a good group of 15 and maybe even 16 players coming in next year.”

Steve Levine can be reached at [email protected]